HENDERSON — Filing opened Monday for 2022’s local elections, with candidates for sheriff leading the way in Vance, Granville and Warren counties.
In Vance County, incumbent Sheriff Curtis Brame submitted the paperwork to run for his second term in office. In Granville County, Robert D. Fountain Jr. told officials he’s running for the sheriff’s job, and in Warren County, Keishawn Mayes and John Branche likewise sought a place on the ballot for sheriff.
All four are Democrats, and the filings in Granville and Warren began what are expected to be lively races as potential candidates in those counties have been positioning themselves for months now.
Candidates for sheriff in Granville County are seeking to replace suspended incumbent Sheriff Brindell Wilkins, who along with a trio of his former deputies is facing criminal charges in connection with an assortment of scandals.
Another former deputy and sheriff, Charles Noblin, was preparing to run but resigned late in October after prosecutors reported to state regulators that he and a fifth deputy had signed forms indicating they’d completed their annual firearms qualifications when in fact they had not.
Fountain, a former U.S. Marine and longtime staffer in the N.C. Department of Public Safety, ran against Wilkins in 2018 and lost in the party primary, receiving a bit more than 26% of the vote to Wilkins’ 62%-plus.
He said the job now is to rebuild trust in the command staff among sheriff’s office employees, and trust in the office among the public.
“The fine deputies and detention staff and civilian personnel are suffering a black eye because of the actions of others,” Fountain said. “With that, we want to bring a change to the culture and restore the public trust. That’ll begin with a new vision and new direction to lead the Granville County Sheriff’s Office.”
Brame, who replaced former Vance County Sheriff Peter White after the 2018 election, said his priorities for another term are reducing gun violence and the community’s opioid- and heroin-addiction problems, along with improving the diversity of local law enforcement and promoting reform in mental health care.
He said the Vance sheriff’s office, like other law enforcement agencies around the state, is dealing with personnel shortages and has 17 vacancies currently.
It also has its own legal issues, with three deputies under indictments over alleged attempts to circumvent North Carolina laws on civil-asset forfeiture.
Nonetheless, “I enjoy serving the people,” Brame said. “I enjoy being sheriff and I just enjoy doing what I do.”
The filings for Warren County sheriff, meanwhile, pit the police chief of Norlina in Mayes against the current chief deputy of the sheriff’s office in Branche. The incumbent, Johnny Williams, has indicated that he isn’t running again after having served seven terms.
The day’s filing also began shaping other local races.
In Vance County, incumbent County Commissioner Gordon Wilder filed for re-election to the District 3 seat, which covers a rural portion of the county east of Henderson. A Democrat, he is seeking his fourth term.
Incumbent Commissioners Tare Davis, Victor Hunt and Bertadean Baker filed for re-election in Warren County, to represent districts 2, 3 and 4 respectively. And in Granville County, Rob Williford II filed to run for county commissioner in District 2, which covers northeast Oxford and much of the rural area adjoining Vance County. The incumbent in the district is Commissioner David Smith.
Other filings in Vance County included incumbent Clerk of Court Henry Gupton and incumbent Register of Deeds Cassandra Neal. In Warren County, incumbent Clerk of Court Lisa Blalock is running again, as is incumbent school board member Victoria Lehman.
A court order issued Monday blocked the opening of filings for congressional and N.C. General Assembly seats.
Contact Ray Gronberg at email@example.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.